Kingsway Hall, 66-69 Great Queen Street WC2B 5BX – Covent Garden, London
Price: £40-45 per person (drinks excluded)
We visited the restaurant on a Friday night. I had had such a bad day at work, very stressful, absolutely not productive and I was really hoping for a fine and relaxing dinner. Needless to say, I got quite concerned when we found out that the restaurant was occupied by a Christmas Party…you know, Christmas Parties in England, definitely not the most quiet affair… However the reception pointed us to the bar which had temporally been converted into restaurant.
Strangely enough we needed to wait few minutes before a member of staff acknowledged our presence. Disappointing, as the place was neither busy nor full. A waiter had noticed us but not bothered to seat us. I then took the initiative and walked upstairs where I could see a lady in suit welcoming the diners. Not a brilliant start for a four-star hotel restaurant.
Thankfully, when we were finally asked about out booking, we were welcome and seated by a very pleasant, smiling young girl named Davinia. She gave us all the time in the world to settle at the table and then introduced us the menu. My hopes were soon restored.
Given that the restaurant was not in the usual location, I will refrain from commenting on the interior.s Enough to say that it was sober and relaxing, but the loud music of the Christmas Party really did not help to enjoy the atmosphere. Thankfully the music was turned down after our starters. I could then sit back, relax and appreciate the meal.
I will list our entrées in a shuffled order, so that I can save the best for last. This is what we enjoyed.
Pan seared Scottish scallops with Bramley apple puree, black pudding, and cider vinaigrette
As soon as the plate was put in front of me I was overwhelmed by a delicious, warm fragrance. What a nice surprise. The nicest plates of food are those from which both palate and nose can rejoice, and this was definitely the case.
The scallops were very soft and moist, the pudding was there in the right quantity, not taking over the plate. But the thing I enjoyed most was the vinaigrette which I am very confident was reduced with a bit of scallops jus: full, strong flavours, perfectly brought together by a delicious reduction that decorated the plate with an elegant, tasteful arabesque.
Terrine of Beaufort cheese and globe artichoke with Balsamic vinegar, radish and curly endive salad, walnut croutons
This was a very fresh plate of food. The Beaufort cheese had almost like a gummy texture that made the dish fun to eat. Fun as entertaining in this case. Served cold, it was almost like a summer breeze among the warm British winter meals. We really enjoyed it as its freshness made us appreciate the strong flavours of our mains even more.
British cheese plate: Cropwell Bishop Stilton, Golden Cross Sussex, Cornish Yarg and Somerset Brie
Although I did not find the Sussex and Bie particularly tasty, I loved the Stilton and the Yarg. Also, among the usual crackers, I was served a sweet biscuit. This accompanied the stilton and the jelly in perfect merriment.
Main & Side
Pine nut, red onion, tomato, watercress salad
This was our side. I am not too keen on spending too much time on it as this was a bit of a disappointment. There were actually no onions in the salad, which also missed seasoning. It was like the chef had completely forgotten about the plate before sending it to service. Let’s move on.
Welsh lamb three ways: Cannon, Shepherd’s pie, riellette, spinach and mint jus
And there is was…England! In all its power and stoic wilderness! What a lamb. The plat basically climbed a three-step ladder reaching perfection. It was served with a delicious jus, which – although it did not taste much like mint – it tasted slightly like onions, or some sort of posh barbeque sauce. This left a very pleasant sweet aftertaste that happily married with the lamb. The Shepherd’s pie’s potato mash was nice and soft, however I found the salt too generous on the meat, which almost switched the lamb off. The riellette was served as a croquette, very very tasty, again, fun to eat. And then, finally, I bite into the king of the plate: the lamb cannon.
I don’t know how many of you had the chance to visit the beautiful landscapes of England, if you haven’t please do. There is much more to England that just London. The isle is a green and wild gem and when I tasted that meltingly, pink, tender lamb – so satisfyingly rich – my mind was catapulted in the lawns and meadows of green County Durham. The loud party, my stressful job, the crowds of Covent Garden were just no more.
And this is what food should do. Well, this is what I believe it actually does. It refreshes our mind and soul, it connects with memories and places, it makes us travel and dream. What a gift!